Letters

Arte Pblico Protests
This is to protest your running Claudia Kolker's totally biased, one-sided attack on Arte Pœblico Press [News, "Family Feud, June 29]. First of all, Ms. Kolker lied to me when she obtained my interview, stating she was "updating" a previous story run by the Houston Press and that there would also be a few questions about the Denise Chavez suit. In fact, all she was after were a few quotes from me to legitimize her original and hidden intent: taking up Chavez's cause to publicly embarrass Arte Pœblico into relinquishing our rights.

Ms. Kolker cited letters from disgruntled authors but never asked for the hundreds of favorable letters from authors, the scores of awards, the hundreds of outstanding reviews, the titles of the many books and literary items which we have sent on to "mainstream presses." In fact, she let herself be duped by the professional actress Ms. Chavez, who is suing for the return of our 50 percent interest (standard in literary publishing contracts) in a book that our press has developed as a standard text in Chicano literature courses. Ms. Chavez has conducted a smear campaign against our press for over two years in hopes that she can force us through slander in the literary community and now on the public record to relinquish the rights because her suit has no legal merit.

The reason we do not relinquish the rights, despite the nuisance of her slander and enlisting a few other malcontents, is that such surrender will show that we cannot defend our contracts and, therefore, the whole Arte Pœblico Press catalog of titles will become subject to a feeding frenzy among New York agents now hungry to obtain rights to books that before we developed them were not even allowed in their front doors. Agent [Susan] Bergholz has been directly involved in attempting to break our contracts and we have letters to prove this and to prove her instigation of Chavez's action.

Arte Pœblico is a triply audited program of the University of Houston -- by outside, state and foundation auditors. All audits and evaluations have always concluded that APP is one of the premier literary organizations in the country. We have had a very rough road during our existence because of lack of finances and resources, lack of space, lack of expertise (and no one willing to train us as outsiders to publishing -- just as Hispanic authors have been kept out). We have suffered from discrimination and lack of support from the press and the reviewing mechanisms. Despite all of those existing barriers, over the last few years we have experienced rapid growth and success. Now just one author has brought a very first suit against us and has encouraged other authors to treat us as a publishing giant. In the world of publishing, our finances and the number of books we publish still make us an insect. Ms. Bergholz knows that; that is why she does not hesitate to interfere with our contracts in hopes of striking gold with books that we have developed.

The second thing Ms. Kolker told me was that you have assigned her to the Hispanic beat. If this hack job is indicative of how she will treat Hispanics and their institutions, I suggest you find someone else. But in your staff listing, I note an absence of Hispanic names. Does this exclusion of Hispanics and their editorial perspective reveal itself in your arrogance and impunity in unfairly attacking one of the nation's most beloved Hispanic cultural institutions? I demand an apology.

Nicolas Kanellos
Houston
Editor's reply: Claudia Kolker indeed told Nicolas Kanellos initially that she was doing an "update" on a previous Press story on Arte Pœblico and that she would be asking questions about the complaints by Denise Chavez. She did not "lie" about her intent. A date was set for an in-person interview at Mr. Kanellos' office, but he failed to keep the appointment (later explaining to Kolker that he was mistaken about the date of the interview). After conducting lengthy interviews with Chavez and her lawyer and reviewing a packet of correspondence Chavez provided from other disgruntled former Arte Pœblico writers, Kolker saw the focus of the story changing and tried to reschedule an interview with Mr. Kanellos. She explicitly informed his secretary that she would be asking questions about the complaints against Arte Pœblico, so that Mr. Kanellos would be prepared to address them. He did so in a phone conversation with Kolker the following morning, and his side was presented thoroughly -- and fairly -- in her story. Finally, if we must engage in a contest of ethnic credentialing, Kolker is half-Mexican. That makes her approximately as "Hispanic" as Mr. Kanellos, who, we hope, isn't holding his breath while awaiting an apology.

Come to Lovely Montrose
Well, thank God, for the last 18 years we've lived in smart Montrose, where diversity is prized, real-estate values are rising rapidly and the Ridley Smiths would be more than welcome [News, "Order, Please," by T.R. Witcher, July 13].

John W. Kellett
Houston

Reading, Writing, and Egotism
I enjoy your Insider column. Thanks for letting us know about "diploma-gate" and the possibility of HISD wasting even more tax dollars by reprinting diplomas [July 6]. I guess when you are on the HISD board, egotism is a terrible thing to waste.

David Rogers
Houston

That Postulatin' Seitz
I guess big-government advocacy isn't what it used to be. Your review of the Apollo 13 film ["Moonstruck," by Matt Zoller Seitz, July 6] ignores any manifestations of "individual autonomy," pretends that the film validates "spending money on behalf of an abstract ideal" and overtly labels the film an "inspiring paean to collective action."

Perhaps the reviewer prays at night that Lindbergh never existed ... and so postulates an egoless collective when confronted with a mass of Lindberghs.

Pete Jamison
Houston

No Suprise Here
Enclosed you will find my ballot for the 1995 Houston Press Music Awards. Once again, I am disappointed that Houston's Banana Blender Surprise was not nominated for any awards, but their omission is no great shock.

The Press has a rocky history with this band, to say the very least. Brad Tyer was making snide comments about them long before he ever made it to a show -- mind you, once he did get out to see them he took everything back and admitted they were fantastically entertaining and highly skilled musicians. It may be cliche to drag in the Houston-music-writers-have-a-chip-on-their-shoulder-about-the-Austin-music-scene conspiracy theory/observation, but I'm not afraid to do it. Banana has regular gigs at clubs in Austin that most of the bands on this ballot will never see unless they are willing to fork over the cover charge. The notorious Black Cat Lounge on Sixth Street, Hole in the Wall, Antones .... Have the Jinkies ever been to Austin? (Apologies to the Jinkies -- I'm using you for the sake of comparison because of your recent profile in the Press.)

No one had on name tags, so I can't be sure, but my guess is that not a single Houston Press music reviewer was at the Satellite Lounge on July 9 for Banana's last show. Houston Press readers and critics, here's what you missed if you weren't there:

A packed house on a Sunday night. Frenetic dancing and singing, from directly in front of the stage to the sidewalk outside. A line waiting for the doors to open. A merchandise case with three CDs, several 45s and a vinyl LP, all of which sold phenomenally well in both Austin and Houston. Parents, kids, cousins, family friends, young hipsters, old hippies, a road-weary yet punchy Austin contingent, a documentary filmmaker. A band that played for five and a half hours, with only one break. A band of five, all of whom sang at least one song. A dynamo lead singer who can drink an RC, eat a Moon-Pie, sing a song about it, all at the same time and make it rock. Two guitarists who could never be called boring or pretentious. A rhythm section to die for -- a bass player who needs no introduction and no microphone, and a drummer who sits in with Soulhat on occasion. And oh my, can you dance to this music or what? I mean really dance -- jitterbug, twist, swing, even limbo and tango.

Houston Press, you missed out. For two years, Banana has been touring hard and playing three and four nights a week, at least, all over Texas. They've toured up to Connecticut and back. They have played their hearts out to crowds of five-year-olds in Memorial Park, and crowds of five on slow nights at small bars. They have packed every Houston, Austin and Dallas club they have ever played. Banana Blender Surprise wins. You lose.

Andrea C. Greer
Houston

Disappearing Press
What is going on? About a year ago Kroger stopped carrying the Press. Now, in the last few weeks I'm having trouble finding it anywhere. Are you having some kind of circulation trouble, or is some fundamentalist group cleaning out all the news racks? What is going on?

Also, as long as I'm here, I'd like to request that you pick up a few of the national columns such as News of the Weird, Klick and Klack, Joe Bob, etc. I've always enjoyed NOTW, I liked Klick and Klack when you had it, and I've seen Joe Bob a number of times, though I've never lived in a city that carries him regularly.

Keep up the good work.
Tony Kenck
Houston

Editor's reply: Members of fundamentalist groups are some of our most avid readers, and they always get their copies of the Press early. Our crack circulation department suggests you do the same. If you wait until the weekend, the racks could be empty.

Damn 'Em All!
Concerning your June 22 article ["Killing Fields"] by Claudia Kolker about lawsuits alleging electromagnetic fields around power lines cause cancer: I tend to go ballistic every time I read another story that references Joe Jamail as a heroic figure who "squeezed $11 billion out of Texaco." The myth lives on! Yes, Joe Jamail was one of the architects of the Pennzoil/Texaco conspiracy that ended in a $3 billion (not $11 billion) settlement. But no media person has ever exposed this enormous court scam -- all we see is praise and adoration for the perpetrators.

In a July 5 article in the Investor's Business Daily, Michael Fumento wrote (referring to the silicone scandal), "The lawyers never had science on their side, but they had something better. For years, almost all reporters ignored scientists and scientific data in favor of sensationalism. Many stories, print and broadcast, really did talk of 'ticking time bombs.'" Ms. Kolker and the Houston Press fit the description. Sensationalism sells! Joe Jamail sells! Judicial system integrity be damned! The public be damned!

Ray E. Dittmar
Houston

Messing With Melissa
I thought Scott Verbout, author of your story on Melissa Etheridge ["Come to Her Window," July 6] might find it amusing to know that in Rolling Stone's 1989 critics poll (as opposed to readers poll), the Rolling Stone staffers who decide on these matters voted Melissa Etheridge worst female musician!! Has she and her music really changed that much? Funny what a multimillion-dollar publicity/PR blitz can do.

I also sleep better now after reading in that recent Rolling Stone article that Melissa and Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John and Jeff Goldblum, etc. are all "chums." Five will get you ten that these folks wouldn't give her the time of day if she didn't have a bunch of gold and platinum albums.

Name Withheld
Houston

Correction
In the July 13 story "The Senator Who Blew Himself Up," state District Judge Lamar McCorkle was incorrectly identified as one of the Harris County judges who have made state Senator John Whitmire especially welcome in their courts by granting him ad litem lawyer appointments.

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